Photos by Dan Lidon |

A year ago when The Key’s Sameer Rao first introduced us to Philadelphia five-piece Halfro, he said that “comparing [the band] to its most obvious progenitor would be way too simple.” And while I do agree with his sentiment, not making that connection between this homegrown jazzy / funky hip-hop live band and The Roots leaves out a big part of their story.

Bassist Luke Reitz boasts that he has a Roots tattoo; they’re his favorite band, one that transformed him from a strictly heavy metal bassist to a wide-eyed, eclectic player with a more expansive view on his instrument’s possibilities…and the possibilities of music in general. The smooth, freewheeling sound Halfro has honed since starting in a Temple University basement a couple years ago owes much to Do You Want More?!!!?! And most significantly, the group practically bleeds Philly (even though singer / MC Dave “Mutt” Patrick moved up to New York after graduating).

One of my favorite moments of the band’s Key Studio Session is “Bus Pass,” a track from their 2014 EP Squalor. It uses riding SEPTA as a metaphor for the uncertainty of being young and navigating an economic climate that isn’t terrible per se, but isn’t great either. And yet we still have to make our way through to interact and make connections with our fellow travelers in life. Mutt’s solution: keep it real, keep on the level with those around you, and don’t be afraid to holler if you need to – when the breakdown hits, we just hear the beat, Curtis Arnett’s sax and the various bandmates hollering “BACK DOOR!!” Which, if you’ve ever taken a bus in this city, you no doubt appreciate that one. The song came on my earbuds today as I was taking the 18 through Germantown and it was too perfect.

Other moments to listen for in the session: a brand new track called “Sink or Swim,” which explores similar themes of perseverance; the hard-hitting drumbeats of Justin Davis blending with the gentle keyboards of Andrew Aulenbach on “Make You See,” and and Mutt’s very soulful vocal melody on “So Close.” Stream it all below, download the individual tracks on Soundcloud and keep tabs on Halfro’s Facebook page for news about the next time they’ll perform in Philly.